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01/05/2010 SRI LANKA

Sri Lankan Christians want to be part of the election process

For Fr Rohan Silva, from the Centre for Society and Religion, Churches should do more. Human rights activists agree. The bishop of Jaffna talks about the Tamil situation.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Human rights activists and representatives from the Catholic Church in Colombo who took part in a round table on Sunday organised by the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) agree people must become more aware of what is at stake in the 26 January presidential election. They also concluded that Christians can play a key role in the political debate.

"Hardly anything [during the campaign] is said about the real issues that matter to the people," CSR Director Fr Rohan Silva told AsiaNews. However, "elections are an opportunity to educate voters" about "civic responsibility".

"We believe people of faith need to be involved in the political process and vote with a sense of empowerment and conscience," he added. "Unfortunately, Churches have not sufficiently educated their clergy and faithful on the civic responsibility to play a pro-active role in the political process".

Human rights activists agree. "The clergy should help the population become more aware of their rights," said Buddhist attorney S. G. Punchihewa, who attended the CSR meeting.

"Those who will not vote for current President Mahinda Rajapaksa or General Sarath Fonseka can choose among 20 more candidates," Punchihewa said. "What counts is voting. "

"For our part, we shall call on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka to issue a pastoral letter on the election," Father Rohan said. "We shall collect signature for those who want a free and fair race, and shall write to all candidates that they insist on having an election without manipulation."

Meanwhile Mgr Thomas Savundaranayagam, bishop of Jaffna, met opposition candidate General Fonseka to discuss the aftermath of the war on Tamils.

"We hope that Tamils will not make the mistakes of the past, and that this time they will vote," the prelate said. "However, restrictions imposed on them must be lifted and they must feel free to choose according to their conscience. After this election, the Tamil question must be solved once and for all."






See also

28/07/2008 SRI LANKA
Prayer vigil in Colombo to remember the victims of ‘black July’
The civil war that pits government forces against Tamil Tigers has killed 70,000 people in 25 years. The country’s Christians organise a prayer vigil to honour the memory of those who died and to call for peace and prosperity for Sri Lanka as a whole.

19/03/2010 SRI LANKA
Tamil Catholic students travel south, bear witness to “love and unity” for Sri Lanka
Thanks to an initiative by Jesuit fathers, a group of 150 children from Mannar visit Colombo and Kandy. Despite the trauma of war, the kids symbolise hope for a future of peace. An act of altruism by a Tamil boy helps a man overcome decades of divisions and conflict.

28/01/2010 SRI LANKA
Presidential election: Rajapaksa’s landslide victory splits the country
The President’s Office describes the outcome as an “historic and resounding” victory, which shows the “vitality of our democracy”. Opposition parties complain about vote rigging and fraud. Catholic priest laments that “corruption and nepotism” rule the country. Rajapaksa plans to dissolve parliament and call a new general elections.

23/03/2013 SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka Islamic group: fasting, striking and praying for peace with Buddhists
The Muslim Rights Organisation (MRO) will launch a peaceful protest against the widespread anti-Islamic feeling of some radical groups of Sinhalese-Buddhists. Growing religious intolerance and social boycott of Muslim minority.

16/03/2010 SRI LANKA
Colombo: General Fonseka before a court martial
The government accuses the former army chief of taking part in January’s presidential election whilst still in the army. They also accuse him of violating military procurement procedures. If he is found guilty, he could get up to five years in prison. He rejects all the charges, calls them politically motivated.


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